Lawyers at Sidley have frequently been seated at the table when laws that impact the way their clients do business are being drafted. So, too, is the case in Mongolia, where the firm’s lawyers helped draft and obtain legislative approval of a new arbitration law that was enacted by the country’s parliament on January 26. The state-of-the art law will contribute significantly to a more secure legal environment for domestic businesses and foreign investors.
The legislation marks an important legal advance for Mongolia, placing it at the forefront of global best practice in the field of arbitration, said its Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, S. Byambatsogt. “With the approval and implementation of the law's amendments, business entities will have the legal right to determine the laws and regulations used to settle their disputes. This shows that Mongolia’s arbitration process has reached international standards,” he said.
Together with lawyers at the Mongolian law firm MDSKhanlex LLP, David Roney of Sidley’s International Arbitration team worked on a pro-bono basis with the USAID/Mongolia Business Plus Initiative to craft the legislation. In the initial phase of the project, Roney and Andrew Fox of the firm’s London office prepared the original concept paper and then led an open dialogue forum with private and public sector stakeholders to ensure consensus on the proposed new statutory framework.
Over the following years, Roney and Fox then worked closely with the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs and MDSKhanlex lawyers in developing the draft arbitration law that was ultimately enacted by parliament. In doing so, the Sidley team also liaised with legal officers from the United Nations Commission on International Trade law (UNCITRAL) to ensure that the final statute would see Mongolia afforded the status of a UNCITRAL “Model Law” jurisdiction, thereby achieving a key objective of the Mongolian government. In recognition of his contribution to this important law reform project, Minister Byambatsogt awarded Roney with “The Minister of Justice and Home Affairs’ Medal of Office” following an international conference to publicly launch the new arbitration law in Ulaanbaatar on February 21.
Roney recalls that he jumped at the chance to take leadership of the project when Ayaz Shaikh, a partner in Sidley’s Washington, D.C. office with longstanding experience in Mongolia, first brought the matter to the International Arbitration team in 2014.
“I had previously been involved in another law reform project in Canada, which provided excellent background for our work in Mongolia,” said Roney, who is a member of the Advisory Board for the International Arbitration Project of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, which seeks to harmonize the laws of the country’s different provinces and territories.
He enjoyed this unique opportunity to work closely with the people of Mongolia, whom he described as professional, warm and inviting. He was equally attracted by the opportunity to effect meaningful change. “It has been a tremendous privilege to contribute to the rule of law and legal framework for economic development of a country with so much potential,” Roney said.
The newly passed legislation is but one example of Sidley’s ongoing work in Mongolia, which also includes Roney’s current representation of a Mongolian corporate group in an international arbitration relating to the termination of an EPC contract for a major industrial facility. Others working on matters involving Mongolian clients include Prabhat Mehta in New York, who helped Shaikh establish a Mongolia practice at Sidley, Matt Shankland, Marc Wasserman and Phillip Taylor in London, Tim Chandler in Houston, and Tao Lan in Beijing.
The team has secured a number of significant victories, including one led by Shankland working in collaboration with the MDSKhanLex firm: The representation of Ulaanbaatar Railways in its successful US$55 million jurisdiction battle against Standard Bank PLC in London High Court, which yielded a landmark ruling for a Mongolian company.
“It is a country with substantial potential despite its ups and downs,” said Shaikh, a member of the Project Finance and Infrastructure practice, who has been advising clients conducting business in Mongolia since 2009. “Participating in its development by helping to improve its legal infrastructure represents both an achievement and an opportunity for us,” he added.
S. Byambatsogt S., Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, receives Pui-Ki Emmanuelle TA., ICC Counsel of Asia Office of the Secretariat of the Court in Hong Kong, Kevin Nash Kristopher, the Deputy Registrar and Centre Director of Singapore International Arbitration Centre, Nils Rolandsson Eliasson, a Counsel Member of Hong Kong International Arbitration Center, David Patrick Roney and Andrew Robert William Fox, partners of Sidley, at the International Conference “New Law of Mongolia on Arbitration and International Standards.”